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Thread: Half-Life: Alyx

  1. #1

    Half-Life: Alyx

    In the immortal wise words of Roy Chubby-Brown:
    "Oh, I don't know why Gordons leaving, or where he's gonna go, I guess G-Man's got his reasons, But I just don't want to know,
    Coz for thirteen years, I've been waiting to spend time with Alyx,
    Alyx? Who the the f--- is Alyx?

    Yes, thirteen years just waiting for a chance, to get a VR game all about my fave girl Vance, Now I've got to get used to motion sickness as I play as Alyx,
    Alyx? Who the f--- is Alyx?"



    So, the game has eleven chapters meaning I'm still early on it after last nights introductory experience which see's me currently around the tail end of Chapter 2. As a result there's a lot I've yet to experience as combat hasn't even been introduced properly yet, the game easing the player in as they go along. It's quite an interesting experience to be honest, playing a game that has gone all out to deliver a comprehensive and full scale VR experience that is uncompromised. So far it's left me with a mix of feelings, it feels like Alyx is simultaneously final proof of all of VR's strengths but also why it's doomed to decline in the coming years - a thought I'm hoping the meat of the game can erase given the high risk that might get compounded further.



    First thing is that the game's visuals hold up strong throughout. It's not that Source Engine 2 is some sort of amazing powerhouse for visuals but more that the art style approach Valve have taken is to take what Half-Life 2 delivered all those years ago and to update it which means with the advancements in minor details, lighting and textures the game comes across as very clean looking which is the ideal approach as it works well with the displays VR headsets have, minimising moments where details are blurred or unclear.

    Movement would probably be the next key area and as Alyx is a rolling adventure (bar the disappointing inclusion of early 2000-era mid-level breaks for loading the next section of level) then locomotion will be a concern for many. The game has four main options for movement which are:

    Blink - Where you select where to move to and the screen briefly blanks out and returns in the next location
    Teleport - The common system where you choose where to move to and then you shift to that location
    Continuous - Where you move via analogue stick with direction guided by your headset
    Aimed - Same as Continuous but more guided by the positioning of your hands

    I have it set to the last one which is the worst for motion sickness but my sea legs seem to be fine with it. I absolutely hate teleport in every VR game, it's immersion breaking and in one motion establishes why VR is limited. I find the targeted locomotion is stuttery but maintains the sense of immersion much more because you're always in the environment.



    There's already been talk both from fans and Valve themselves about the high likelihood of someone modding the game to allow non-VR players to work through the game. As much as the experience would be diluted by this I can kind of see how it would be done but without other tweaks people may find it too pedestrian. Movement is slow, a lot slower than most other games, but that is to manage the risk of motion sickness so in VR you don't mind that the game is a more considered pace of experience than past entries. On TV it may make the game too plodding and whilst modders could speed Alyx up I imagine it would mess up enemy encounters.

    So far I can switch between a multitool used for puzzles, an empty hand or a pistol. You aim and yank items toward yourself with the gravity gloves and catch them mid-air. Items are stored in your backpack which is done by putting the item over your shoulder as an action. Now, this brings me around to interactivity. From the moment the game opens there are objects around that you can interact with and I was surprised that there was actually less interaction than I expected. You can pick up pens and draw on objects, all doors are opened as you would in real life, you manually load your weapons, you can pick up matchboxes etc. But many of the objects are static, I picked up a matchbox and prodded its tray with my finger but nothing happens. Press the top of a spray can and the same - nothing. It's a very small thing but I think it says a lot that I thought something would happen, that nothing did kind of scaled back my expectations of the game because this is a big budget major release and it shows that when a convincing level of immersion is achieved it can still so very easily be broken by the smallest details. There are lots of moments of interaction, it's just so far I'm finding them to be fairly signposted and typical examples like you'd see in other VR games.



    I think that's pretty much how the game comes across so far. VR is awash with small experience games and experimental titles exploring the various advantages of virtual reality. So far Alyx feels like it is answering the question of what happens when you refine, polish and create a traditional single player FPS campaign with all of these elements. Everything about the game feels polished but at the same time many VR quirks such as motions not always being recognised, the issues with locomotion solutions etc still exist. Almost like a compendium of the finest of what VR can do whilst not really bringing any solutions to what VR can't do.

    Another key question some may have - Valve Index. The biggest feature that that headset has is the individual finger tracking, Index is an expensive entry point to VR but much has been made of its features and how Alyx is built with it foremost in mind. I won't lie, so far I haven't experienced a single instance where the ability to move your fingers individually would have been used, be beneficial or even a fun novelty so far. Again, maybe later something will come up but given the price jump can be north of 600 extra to play this game via Index over other options it would be wrong to suggest that so far there's anything to suggest Index would actually bring anything to the table to warrant that cost.

    I don't want to underplay the game too much though. Like I said, I'm early on in and there's lots of playtime remaining for it to bring ideas to the table and to mix up gameplay scenarios. It's also very clear from the outset that there's a very real likelihood that Alyx may well be the finest of all VR games on the market. It would take some major mis-steps for the game to not end up being a game that warrants 9 or 10 out of 10 scores. There's a difference though between whether a game is say a 10/10 VR game or a 10/10 game compared to all games in all forms and that I'm more on the fence about at the moment.

    I'm definitely going to go slow with the game though, it deserves to be savoured as it's a unique experience purely by its nature. This is a 13-15 hour high budget single player campaign adventure made by a company that doesn't need to concern itself by the development costs incurred by this and the likelihood that it won't be a big earner for them. Unless Valve makes another VR exclusive single player game there likely won't be another game like Alyx in VR again so it's worth experiencing to the fullest.
    Last edited by Neon Ignition; 27-03-2020 at 07:44 AM.

  2. #2
    I'm into Chapter 3 now so I'm finding my progress is slow but one thing that's very clear is that if this game was modded for traditional play it would probably take only 3-4 hours to complete. With VR it's less an expansive adventure and more that you spend quite a lot of time in each room taking in the sights etc which handled like a traditional FPS I reckon you'd run through 10 rooms, shoot 3 enemies and bang a section is done. I'm glad I don't seem to get any motion sickness, generally I stop playing because my face feels too warm after while.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Neon Ignition View Post
    I'm into Chapter 3 now so I'm finding my progress is slow but one thing that's very clear is that if this game was modded for traditional play it would probably take only 3-4 hours to complete. With VR it's less an expansive adventure and more that you spend quite a lot of time in each room taking in the sights etc which handled like a traditional FPS I reckon you'd run through 10 rooms, shoot 3 enemies and bang a section is done. I'm glad I don't seem to get any motion sickness, generally I stop playing because my face feels too warm after while.
    Yea Alyx does move like an arthritic biddy. Try this -

    Right-click on “Half-Life: Alyx” title under the Library in Steam and select Properties.
    Under the General tab click the Set launch options… button.

    Enter in the following line:
    +hlvr_continuous_normal_speed 200 +hlvr_continuous_combat_speed 200
    Close the game’s Properties window and launch the game.

    I found 200 a bit fast so I set it to 125. It makes the game a bit more fun in my option.

  4. #4
    That worked a treat for me, after getting used to it I've been running it set to speed 150. I'm just starting out on Chapter 6 now and the more I play the more I think the game is actually very straight forward, without the VR aspect I don't think it would actually be that good an FPS but the VR very much defines the experience. It's taking a nice amount of time to work through as well, though I'm thinking I might try changing to seated play as I'm finding there isn't really a point to standing. Probably 3-4 times I've had to crouch to get past a low hurdle but other than that I'm largely stood still with a bit of leaning so the added comfort of sitting will probably make for longer play sessions.

  5. #5
    I take it back - playing it sat down was a pain in the backside. Crouching isn't intuitive at all and the hand gestures still require a lot of space so for what little rest it's worth you may as well just play standing and skip the issues.

  6. #6
    I really wish there was a demo. I want to get it, but it's 50 and I don't know how it'll run on my machine.

  7. #7
    Apparently on the equivalent of a GTX1060 it runs at 30fps, 1080p at High solidly.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by Neon Ignition View Post
    Apparently on the equivalent of a GTX1060 it runs at 30fps, 1080p at High solidly.
    Hmm. I'm on a 1060, but on Quest, so I need 72fps for a reliable experience.

  9. #9
    Pushed through to early Chapter 9 last night with the encounter with Jeff being a little bit of a pain thanks to one moment where detection was a bit off. A little bit of improv got me past that bit though and it was fine from there. I think revisiting the series as well it's been a reminder of just how little plot there is to the series, it's gearing up a bit now but largely there's little and thinking back it's much the same with HL2. The original was great for creating a sense of place with Black Mesa which I missed with HL2's streets etc because I don't find the aesthetic of HL that appealing. Alyx being set in the same environment is largely carried by the viewpoint putting you in it as a convincing location but it reminded me that if they make a third game I'd rather they took it closer to the original for setting. I'm surprised there's so few enemy encounters too, a stretch with a couple in the recent chapter section really stood it out as to how passive much of the game is. Hopefully tonight I can at least get it into mid-Ch10 to make for maybe two more play sessions till completion but it's clear that, Astrobot aside as I haven't played that one, this is pretty much as good as you get for VR.

  10. #10
    Well I’m done. 35 hours just got up to Jeff on my third run and got all 41 achievements. I can’t wait to see what happens once the source toolset is released.
    My game of the year so far.

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